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Old 27th May 2013, 20:58   #1
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Default 'Cruise Ship Holiday' for Dummies...and my European Travelogue!

Before i start, a request to the mods. Since this is an information as well as a travelogue, you may put this online anytime you deem fit, its ready to go on now. I have given a brief outline to cruising and then will start my travelogue with pics. Will be glad to answer any questions along the way of anyone has about this kind of holidays. In any case please do not keep it hovering in the assembly line as this would kill the entire crux of a travelogue.



Cruising For Dummies!!

I have just returned from a refreshing Cruise Holiday, my first. I was very skeptical of the whole thing and had my parents not agreed to come along i doubt i would have been convinced to take this kind of a holiday. As me, i am sure there are many who have not taken a cruise holiday till now and are looking forward to it so i thought id give a bit of an insight to those who may be thinking of taking such a holiday.

Why take a cruise?:

Firstly, a cruise holiday is much more relaxed than any other normal vacation. A cruise is a great and more relaxed way to see many countries within the shortest span of time without getting into the hassles of packing and un packing at every destination, making to and fro cab trips to the airport, finding the right kind of food and restaurant, if travelling across countries, then the hassle of Visa applications etc, etc. It is in fact a floating hotel.
Choosing the right kind of cruise company is always important. While they all are good and have their own pros and cons, a little homework always helps. Depends on the destination (because there are destination specials) your budget and the cost of flying to and fro from the starting and ending point (which is more often than not, the same as the starting point) of the cruise is also important. Please take into account this fact. Also particularly for Indians, one must choose a company that would be able to have a few India Sensitive staff on board for everyday touch and then the food. Vegetarian and Indian food is available on most cruise companies which travel to India but for others it is still a challenge to cook up these kind of meals.
Choose your destination and the travel agent wisely: The earlier you book the better discount you get. So before entrusting the job to a cruise specialist travel agent do some googling, find out prices on your own but i would recommend that for the first time, it is better to entrust the work onto a trusted travel agent. Most of them will recommend you the company which is best suited for you and your budget. Also take into account the weather in all ports of call because there can be some drastic variations between the climatic conditions of a particular port of call today and another one coming up tomorrow or maybe day after.
Choosing a proper room.
While the rooms without a view (or what is referred to as a a port hole) are best left alone (they are also the cheapest), having one with a balcony is even better than having one with a small circular/rectangular/square window or what is called a porthole, but then again you wont know the difference till you experience the other.

Do not expect a very spacious quarter but it will be reasonably comfortable. Size of accommodation, comfort and facilities will vary according to the kind or room you are booked in. I recommend having a room with a balcony because sometimes one does feel like taking a breath of fresh air without having to go to the deck or the poolside. Of course depending on the accommodation you choose, the space may dramatically change from basic to luxurious. One can expect from the basic of basic staterooms to the most luxurious Villa type of suit rooms which sleep from four to six persons with comfort of a luxury hotel with all amenities. On registration you are immediately handed your magnetic key card, one per individual with your names imprinted on it. This will serve as your personal currency or id card on the ship till you are aboard the ship. On most Cruise liners, no money is exchanged on board, your key card serves as your currency. Of course before boarding an amount is blocked with the swipe of your credit card or deposit of a sum which will be adjusted at the end of your journey.

Whom are you travelling with:

There are cruise specifics. If travelling on a romantic holiday then the destination and the company choice may have to be looked into. For honeymooners and die hard romantics the choice may be different than if you are travelling with small or teenaged children. So also the choice may be different for those who are travelling with their parents and sr. Citizens. One will have to take into account the size of the vessel, the activities offered on board keeping in mind the accompanying travelers with one and then make a decision. Worry not, there are crises which offer everything or at least something for everybody and every age group.

Basics:

Food on board is almost always good, if not, it is at least passable and included in the price and please be informed that they will feed you so immensely that you may be packing a nice paunch at the end of the few days that you will spend with them. A cruise Ship, has many restaurants and coffee shops which will cater to the varying clientele. There will always be at least one venue with a huge buffet for breakfast, lunch, hi-tea and dinner and according to the type of rooms opted for, certain restaurants will be off limits to certain guests and only available for others. Of course off limits means, one can pay and eat there. For a visit to such outlets, one would have to go either A' La Carte or pay a small cover charge for eating there, expect to pay between 10-25 US$ as cover charge. Alcoholic beverages are always overpriced and people who are not carrying their own will find their bills piling up swiftly if one is inclined towards larger consumption. There is a duty free shop on board but when one buys hard liquor, more often than not, one does not get delivery of the bottle till the last day as one of the main things the ships make money out of is F&B. Worry not, for whatever the time of the day there is always a buffet laid out for the occasion, breakfast, lunch, hi-tea, evening snacks, dinner, supper, 24 hour (though not a buffet). The variety is endless and one can be sure to find something of one's choice. There will be a drinks dispenser serving juices, water, tea, coffee, ice. If one wants to drink from a bottle or take some water to the room, on will have to buy it. Same goes for soft drinks and hard drinks. No freebies here for anyone.

Entertainment:

There is enough for everyone to do. There are always in excess of one or two pools with hot bath pools, wading pools for kids for all, in addition to a few which are only meant for a select few, those who choose more expensive accommodations and a a few huge sundecks for sunbathers plus those which are not all access. For the kids there is a variety of entertainment with kids clubs and video games and sometimes even bowling arcades and other activities which are designed to keep kids happy and entertained. It would be well advised here to know which of these activities is complimentary and which is paid for. The use of the Video game and bowling arcades are most surely charged and not complimentary. The games are not coin operated and are instead operated through the swipe of the individual room card.
For the others there is almost always a theatre where there are shows and other sorts of entertainment going on during the day. Acrobatics, musical, plays, magic shows etc etc. There may be a climbing wall and may interactive games for those wanting to play with others. Contests etc are common. I remember one contest where we were asked to get out digital cameras along and were sent on a treausre hunt of sorts. We were given clues and were asked to get photos of the answers which were spread throughout the ship on different decks. It was fun and a family thing to do.
The TV in your room gives you adequate information about the programme of the day in addition to the facilities. They also run in many languages different movies, game shows and news channels. You are sure to catch one in English but i have always seen that the better movie is always in some language you dont understand.
service is usually impeccable and there is always someone from the staff watching over whats happening.

For those who want to remain fit, there is a health club with all amenities and a jogging track in addition to a basketball and maybe even a tennis court, depending on the size of the vessle. Expect all to have a short putting course.

Visas:

When visiting many countries while on board one has to only apply for the visa of the country from where the ship departs and returns. The visas of countries visited during the sail will be arranged by the ship at no additional cost. Your passports are usually taken on board and returned on the last day, this is due to the fact that the Visa officer of the particular port of call will stamp your visit on board itself without you being present as most destinations are even less than 12 hours

Costs:

Every company has its own cost structure. I will not be wrong if i said that th eentire cost of your trip will definately be lower than what you took if you went otherwise than by a ship. This im saying because when you cruise, your food, travel, staying, entertainment is all taken care of at an all inclusive price which is not so when travelling by any other form. Then the trouble of packing unpacking etc which i have already mentioned above. Taking flights, taxis, food etc etc.


Points to note:

There are hidden costs to be noted. all room service even if complimentary comes at a service charge. Depending on the cruise company, at the end of the cruise there is an added charge to your bill, the gratuity or tips which may be as high as 10-15 US$ per person per day. Many also have the option of not paying this amount in toto but getting it deleted from the bill if one wants to tip individually but many persons go with this form as it is well distributed. So if you do not want to pay as per their recommendation, be sure to get it deleted from your bill.
Do not liter on board or even overboard. Remember this is a floating vessel and is not stationary so it has to carry all the waste and garbage along with it. Throwing things into the toilets (chemical toilets as in an aircraft) or sinks, may cause a huge problem of a choke which may be really a huge irritant. Also Kindly do not throw anything into the sea. The ship provides various garbage containers for different garbage, ie food, plastic, metal, glass etc. The food garbage is processed and let out into the sea as per the laws for fish food and the other like paper is compacted and incinerated on board. Metal is compacted and glass is collected which is then left on the next port of call.
As the ship has many decks (floors) the rocking sensation one gets in the sea is almost nil on these huge liners. Chances of getting sea sick are minimal for the most effected person too, unless the sea is unreasonably choppy. It would also be wise to keep children under supervision, just as one would keep them under a keen eye of they were hovering around the window of a high rise balcony. Just a precaution.

I have before i start my travelogue, tried to put many FAQs at rest but if there are any specific ones, please shoot, ill try to answer. In the meanwhile do also lend a keen eye to my travelogue coming up!!
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Old 29th May 2013, 18:52   #2
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Default re: 'Cruise Ship Holiday' for Dummies...and my European Travelogue!

Venice:

For Two nights, more so because my Parents hadn't traveled to this part of Italy and this is where we embark on the cruise ship, The Norwegian Jade.
Venice in Italy is highly overrated, especially if you are going to be in the main Venice island that houses St. Marks square.

Nevertheless, it is very beautiful no doubt at all. On the whole its a catch 22 situation. If you're going to stay only in St Mark's square area ie San Marco area and hang around in the mini lanes that lead to and fro from it, it is better off you spend no more than 2 nights in Venice at the maximum. I would say one night and two days ought to be enough. On the other hand if you stay at Lido or the other neighboring islands just separated from the main island by a short span of the sea, then Venice demands the two nights stay, even one extra one if you're the adventurous type or the laid back type. Besides, the dwelling area chosen, is directly proportional to the money you are going to be spending, just for a nights stay in Venice so choose wisely as hotel rooms could be really and stupidly expensive.
Depending on where you are staying, there are two ways of getting to Venice from the Airport. By Taxi (road) and boat or just by boat. So whatever you do, a boat does come into your travel programme unless you are staying in places like Mestre or Pudova which i recommend you do not.
Step out of the Airport and it is a short 7 minute walk to the Water taxi which will directly take you to San Marco. You may take the private water taxi with rates printed, either share it with someone of book the whole thing on your own or take the shuttle kind of ferry which is cheaper (Alilaguna), slower and also fun. The downside is if you are travelling with many and bigger bags and are more people then it sometimes works out cheaper to take the private water taxi. Keep away from touts who offer you a water taxi without showing you the meter, they are taking you for a ride.

Pvt Water Taxi

'Cruise Ship Holiday' for Dummies...and my European Travelogue!-venice-water-taxi.jpg
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Rate Card

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Ferry/ Public Taxi

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Venice, Main island: You can walk just about anywhere. At the most rent a bicycle if you know how to ride one ( you'd be surprised by the number of people who dont) I would suggest walking, not that you have a choice. I always maintain that walking is the best way to get to know a place. Everything is just a few steps or bridges away and of not just a stop or two on the Public Water Taxi that works like a bus service and is as efficient or reasonable (not if you are converting Rupees into Euros.... but then nothing is reasonable not even a coke and definitely not water ). It is always crowded, lively and noisy around (even if you're trying to sleep in the late hours of the night).

Damp smell from the moss ridden lower parts of the structures and somewhat smelly canals are another dampener for me.

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The Gondola ride:

I just fail to see the romance, in the exercise of taking a ridiculously expensive Gondola ride through the mossy parts of the city canals that smell like the cabin of an unused and damp car in the monsoons. It reminds me the smell of wet socks one would get when one returned from a hard day's school which involved some studying and vigorous bouts of football and other athletic games leading to a whole lot of sweat, the stink of which, somehow found its way concentrated into the socks on one's feet. For many it is a romantic experience with the Gondolier singing verses from a song, whose lyrics you do not understand. So for all you know, he could be singing abuses to you for bargaining with his original mentioned price of taking you around in his Gondola.

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Here the Gondola going under the famous Bridge of Sighs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_of_Sighs

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.........Another thing is that after one has seen San Marco and St. Marks square, then what? ........ You have almost seen what there was to see in Venice
San Marco is one of the six main districts/areas of Venice, in the heart of the city which includes the famous Saint Mark's Square or the Piazza San Marco.
San Marco is where the action is and includes most of Venice's most famous sights, including St Mark's Square, St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, the Palazzo Dandolo, the La Fenice Theatre and many many Churches.
The area is very closely built and was once where the government of Venice was located. It is now heavily populated with tourists at all times and is infested with many hotels, banks, boutiques-both expensive and not so expensive, cafes, restaurants, bars etc.

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The Basilica San Marco one of the best existing examples of Byzantine architecture.

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The Campanile San Marco
The Bell tower of the Basilica San Marco placed on the Piazza San Marco and towering over the city, one of Venice's most seen and recognizable symbols. Inside the tower there are 5 large cast iron bells. Each has a name and a purpose and specific time of ringing.

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The Piazetta San Marco

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Beautiful and timeless frescoes adorn the outer and inner walls and the domes of the churches and chapels. Some under restoration.

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St. Mark's Square is surrounded by people, some enjoying their snacks or meals on the various cafes that line the square while some just chill and listen to music being played by some of the cafes (beware, they charge a cover charge of Euro 6-10 over and above your bill just because the music is playing.) There is no charge for just standing and appreciating the music for as long as you like.

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Last edited by V-16 : 29th May 2013 at 18:58.
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Old 29th May 2013, 20:12   #3
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This clock tower an old Church now closed, still gongs on the hour and every half hour with the figurines moving in to strike the bell. The whole thing still works and is a beautiful sight to see. .

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The Clock built by the Ranieri brothers
The clock shows the hours in Roman numerals, the phases of the moon and the Zodiac. It also gives indications to sailors about the tides and which months are more favorable for sailing, besides the perfect time. It is said a huge reward was given to the Ranieri brothers who constructed the clock tower, but later their eyes were removed in order to keep them from repeating such a wonder. So Shahjahan was not the only guy who did this kind of barbaric activity.

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The archway which leads to the Rialto via an array of bylanes........

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.......that house small trattorias, cafes, shops and boutiques.

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The faces of Venice.
These face masks are a specialty of Venice and greet you almost at every shop.

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Seen in the picture, below The Campanile, The Palazzo Ducale also known as The Doge's Palace, a Gothic Venetian style of architecture, literally meaning the palace of the Doge or the chief of Venice, now a Museum, and the Red structure on the extreme right, The Dandolo's Palace (Palace of the Dandolo Family) which houses now the famous and luxurious Hotel Danieli.

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The Piazzetta Di San Marco

The Piazzetta di San Marco not strictly a part of the Piazza San Marco but is an adjoining open space connecting the south side of the Piazza to the waterway of the lagoon. It lies between the Palazzo Ducale or the Doge's Palace on the left and The Libreria or the Library which holds the Biblioteca Marciana on the right. Here you can see the twin columns supporting the statues of St. Theodore stepping on a crocodile on the right and the winged lion of St. Mark, the emblem of Venice, on the left.

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The Side Wall of the Doge's Palace:

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Venice is beautiful at night. Especially the St. Mark's Square when fully lit up.

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Venice has canals and sewage systems that are a few thousand years old and are under the pavement, obviously. Most of these have collapsed over a period of time but are also being restored, albeit with great difficulty. The proximity to the sea means that during rain the water flows into the Grand Canal but this has a reverse effect when the sea is high, during high tide, the water comes in through these broken lines and floods the square, more. It is considered a tourist attraction to see this flooding which frankly to me is disgusting.

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In the above pic, the water already begins to creep in from the cobble stones. Within a couple of hours the entire square would be under a thin sheet of water with a mirror like reflection of the square on it. Looks beautiful but smells. the very thought of standing in or near sewage water creeps me out.
As the water keeps crawling in the people are hardly effected.... they go on about their walk while the cafes get busier.....

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..... and the musicians play a different tune, many a times taking a request.

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We returned to the comfort of our beautiful boutique hotel situated in Lido, situated just besides the canal. Yes Lido does have cars.

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Old 30th May 2013, 14:31   #4
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If staying at Lido Island in Venice, where i stayed this time, i discovered another part of Venice. Just 15 minutes by the water bus from the main Island, Lido is quite the opposite of the main Venice island. Its quieter, much prettier and also less crowded. Its not as ancient as the main island is but its beautiful. It also has a beautiful beach. I recommend that one stay there. Thats because its really beautiful and not as frightfully expensive as the main Island. Lido is a 11 km long sandbar, not more than approximately 2 km wide. It has a buzzing population of around 20,000 and everything is either close to the sea, ferry or juts take your car. Yes it has roads. Lido is also host to the famous Venice International film festival which takes place here every September. It is not as ancient as Venice and this i realized when the hotel owner remarked that Lido is not old. Only around 100-150 years old give and take a few years here or there.
Riddled with cafes and one main arterial road which goes around the whole island, it reminds you of Amsterdam. Canals all around and even though there are roads, people still prefer to take their boats. If you need to get to the main island, its only a short 15 minute ferry ride away. I would do the touristic things to do in Venice in a day but stay at Lido. More fun, and quieter at nights. Also spankingly clean with no mossy smell.

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Today was the sightseeing day.

Basically there are three touristic things to do when in Venice all of which require not more than half a day or at the most one whole day to complete. See St. Marks square in the morning and in the evening for what it looks like when lit. This can be easily done by visiting it in the early evening so that you dont waste time coming to the same place twice. This taken care of the next thing to do is to visit the world famous Murano Glass factory at the Murano Island, where they sell their products at in their own shop but its worth going there just to see the delicate art of blowing glass.

After a quick breakfast at the hotel we set out to the ferry to take us directly to Murano. For the ferry, get a 24 hours pass if you intend to travel around the island and other islands. For the sight seeing day this is a good idea. It works not from 12 to 12 but full 24 hours even if it is the next day. Brilliant. Travel anywhere by ferry in those 24 hours and as much as you want. Validate your ticket by swiping it on a validator at all the ferry stations before entering a ferry.

Murano: On reaching the Muro Island ferry station, the glass factory is just a few steps away.

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You will be directed towards the glass blowing show after which you are led into their showroom to buy any artifact if you like. There are very expensive signature pieces which are one off that they will sell you and ship directly to your address also.

Here is the Master blower who demonstrates the delicate art of moulding glass. He first sticks the raw material around a steel rod in a really hot furnace which instantly melts the glass.

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He then adeptly moulds it using many techniques of turning, shaping and then cutting as can be seen below, with various implements and tools and handles it like a baby.

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Into this believable shape. Who would have thought that moments ago what was a blob of flaming red molten glass would be evolved into a beautiful steed.

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After cooling the colours are visible clearly and all this within minutes. Note that the Red hot orange colour had after cooling become into a smokey dark grey.

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Marvels of glass made in this place. A beautiful all glass chandelier and the outter gate of the workshop adorned with coloured glass flowers
We then saw the showroom and caught the ferry to one of the most interesting things i have seen.

The San Michele Cemetery.

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Due to lack of space this burial ground on an island uses the space to bury the departed very innovatively. A very peaceful and serene island. RIP all those buried here. It had beautifully manicured gardens and the largest specimens of the Rose growing there in abundance. Somehow i thought it very insensitive to be taking any more pictures there, so we said a small prayer for the departed and left the place. RIP.

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Having done that we returned to the main island for a quick snack of a delicious four cheese Pizza and some local cured ham Panini or what we know as Sandwiches.

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The next morning we checked out. The water taxi came right next to the hotel door to pick us and we set sail towards the Cruise Terminal. We would be there in about 20 minutes or so.

Away we go.

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Ciao Lido!!
We bid farewell to Lido Island and the taxi made its way through the canals and under bridges into the open waterway.

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As we approached the Cruise terminal the sight was something else. Enormous ships the size of many buildings stood in the terminal. There were at east 8 to 12 ships at the time when we were pulling in. I was told that a similar number had left early morning from this port.

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We alighted the water taxi on the appointed place

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Following easy directions, we were directed to our cruise ship

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There she stood. The Magnificent and gigantic Liner. A customary picture clicked by Dad and we were on our way to board the ship that would be our home and entertainment for the next seven days through 5 countries. ...Yaaaaaaaayyy...atlast!!!!:

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Traveller Tip On Venice:

If travelling till May end, be prepared to have your ac in the hotel room not in working condition. Something about the local laws which do not permit you to switch on the air conditioner till sometime in June. So be prepared to sleep in a room with no ac or a fan even, although the hotel advertises them as Air-conditioned. Unfortunately both times i have been to Venice have been in May and this means warm nights without ac in an otherwise air-conditioned room. This time though the temperature differed from 13 degrees at night to 22 degrees at night which was the day the Hotel owner decided to hell with the laws and switched on the Ac for the entire hotel. My guess is because he occupied the top floor of the hotel as his residence he would have fried that fateful night too.

People are very friendly and although they do not understand or speak a lot of English, they have a certain gift of conversing with you eloquently using their hands and do manage to get around you. You may also try the same and it works fine, i found.

Areas to see in Venice, besides the above are the Grand Canal are the San Marco Island and nearby islands all accessible by water ferry or public taxi. In the main island there are no cars allowed, simply because there are no roads. Beware of pick pockets, my wife lost her expensive wallet with money from her purse. It was so cleanly taken away that we did not even realize till much after. Beware also, of the various touristic restaurants lined up in nearly every street. They look the same, serve the same food and a very few of them are really good. Most of them will slyly charge you a cover charge and service charge which you will never know of as the bill is in Italian. So it pays to browse the menu which is generally displayed outside of most of the restaurants in Venice. Generally, the Pizza at almost every place is good. How can one go wrong with a Pizza in Italy?!

Shopping is big in Venice, mostly for glass made goods (Murano and the.... not Murano but looks like Murano... and is way cheaper) so unless you're planning to display the certificate of authenticity with your show piece or are looking at a signature Murano artifact, the coloured glass is best purchased from a local store. Besides these local shops, one can find almost every second shop is a restaurant, cafe or a bar of sorts. Some really famous and others just taking tourists for a ride, selling crappy food at absurd prices. If you are into brands, one will find all the top brands here and Italian brands rule the fashion market. From designers to Bags and shoes, Venice has them all. Remember to get your Vat refund form filled in when shopping big. Its makes quite a difference. Just carry a colour photostat of your passport, no need to be lugging your original passport along. If you did that, it would be dangerous and stupid i would say. There are also an equal amount of branded replicas or fakes available, sold on the streets almost everywhere by Nigerians and Bangladeshis. Dont make eye contact with them if you do not wish to purchase anything. They can be really pushy to the extent of following you to your destination in order to make their sale and the further you walk away, the greater their price will fall. This is one place where you should try your bargaining skills if you are into such sort of purchases.

In fact if you like the sea and if you have a day or two to kill and if you haven't seen Venice, Visit it but do not expect too much. The other parts of Italy are really beautiful.

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Old 30th May 2013, 15:32   #5
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Gogi Sahib. Was your cruise ship was docked at San Basilio? We were staying just 50 meters from there. We could have met.
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Old 30th May 2013, 17:20   #6
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 30th May 2013, 17:43   #7
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Gogi Sahib. Was your cruise ship was docked at San Basilio? We were staying just 50 meters from there. We could have met.
Navin Sirji, the cruise ship was docked at the Marittima Port and not San Basilio but we could have met nevertheless as i was always in San Marco area. I was staying at Lido coz i could not get a room anywhere at the Island and the ones offered were at shabby hotels but at the price of The Danieli.
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Old 30th May 2013, 20:26   #8
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@ Gogi: This travelogue couldnt have come at a better time!! Was just going through a Quote and itenary for Italy sent by a travel agent and was planning on doing some research. Up comes your travelogue!! We are planning in August for max 7 days, is it advisable in that period, look forward to your expert advice. Below is the screenshot of the itenary. Will go through the travelogue in the meanwhile.
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Old 31st May 2013, 14:34   #9
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Gogi, thanks a ton for the awesome information! I'm planning an Alaskan cruise in July - August and this thread comes as a Godsend.

Agreed that a balcony room is a must-have

From your research, would you be able to share recommendations on cruise companies?
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Old 31st May 2013, 15:47   #10
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Originally Posted by Maverick5490 View Post
@ Gogi: This travelogue couldnt have come at a better time!! Was just going through a Quote and itenary for Italy sent by a travel agent and was planning on doing some research. Up comes your travelogue!! We are planning in August for max 7 days, is it advisable in that period, look forward to your expert advice. Below is the screenshot of the itenary. Will go through the travelogue in the meanwhile.
I presume your tour of Italy and its not a cruise. Great. Italy is a fantastic country. Yes 7 days is good enough but id extend by another day or two and spend it at Florence. if you just want to do Venice-Rome-Florence. Since ive been there almost three times, i would recommend the following amount of days.

1) As i said, Venice spend maximum two nights, Florence 3 nights or more and Rome 3 Nights. Theres more to do and see around Florence. Pisa will almost take you half a day or more depending on what else you have to see. Florence will itself take you another day or day and a half and then id recommend you to see the neighboring towns of Sienna and Sam Gemignano. Something bewildering. Google these and see if you want any info and pics i could send you that from my last trip. These are two towns which can be done along with Pisa in one day. so that leaves you two days in Florence, beautiful. There is a lot to do in Florence on its own. Ask the travel agent if he can include Sienna and San Gemignano. They are just around a hour or so away from Florence.

Rome you can do the Colosseum, Trevi Fountains, Spanish Steps, all in one day morning to evening and still have time left. I guess the city tour will include them, but still ask. Colosseum you must take a walking tour. Look out for Students who are there who will take you for a tour around Colosseum for almost half that of what the regular guides charge you. It is necessary else one does not understand the history of the place and looks at it from just a ruin point pf view but i guess the tour company will take care of that. This was just in case.

You will enjoy the food there, vegetarian or Non vegetarian. They do not understand the concept of egg being non veg so if you are a non egg eater also and a strict vegetarian, id suggest you say you are an vegetarian and are allergic to egg. That solves the issue. Home made pasta almost always includes egg in Italy, so when ordering pasta expect to have the pasta containing egg, as is in the case of Cakes and pastries.

PS: i would love to know how he will do Murano by coach!!


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Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Gogi, thanks a ton for the awesome information! I'm planning an Alaskan cruise in July - August and this thread comes as a Godsend.

Agreed that a balcony room is a must-have

From your research, would you be able to share recommendations on cruise companies?
Alaska is a great venue for a cruise. Dad and Mom had been the year before and my friends have just gone on the Alaskan cruise. They should be returning in a day or two so i will have allthe information you need, first hand. If you would like to speak to them ill give you their number once they come back and the best part is they are also Gujaratis so they will have first hand information about vegetarian food etc.

There are four broad choices, MSC, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian. I would recommend MSC for the back packing kinds as i have not heard really great review about them form people who have travelled via their ships. Nothing bad, only the others are better. I would recommend The Royal Caribbean company for Alaska tours for their expertise as well as for their Indian friendly atmosphere. The first issue with any vegetarian Indian is the food which Royal Caribbean is very much aware of as they have been operating from India for a while. I would not recommend Norwegian, just for the fact that they are still very new in India and from what i saw, did not have any Indian food on board nor did they have a huge choice of vegetarian. Maybe they are learning but we did find a lot of staff form India who would bend backwards to satisfy an Indian client. On the Jade, the executive Chef and Sous Chefs were Indian but they said that as the number of Indian travellers are almost negligent ( i could spot only 3 other Indian families) as compared to from other countries. So i would recommend for Alaska, Royal Caribbean. Still await my report when my friends come back. They have taken the RC to different locations a few times before.

Check out the deals offered because sometimes due to the availability factor better rooms are available at just a fraction more than what you would pay for a regular accommodation.

If anyone has any queries...Raju Guide is available


And Yes no cruise without a Balcony.

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Old 31st May 2013, 16:22   #11
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Continuing from where i left yesterday....!!!!

Our bags were handed over to the staff on alighting the water taxi, we made our way to the check in area. It was a large warehouse kind of structure with many check in counters as in a Hotel. Separate, for separate kinds of accommodation.

We were met with a personal assistant who led our way to the specific check in area.

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Here we were welcomed and taken into a temporary lounge where we were served refreshments and we filled in the forms and other check in formalities. We were requested to carry our passports to a check in counter and i took all our passports and made way with a person dedicated for our family's check in. At the counter they checked us in, as would any other hotel and had our room cards, one for each member of the family. We were told our accommodation was at the topmost deck ie on the 14th floor and this card would also serve as our id card and our credit card on board as there was no exchange of cash on board. This was an all access card which would also allow us to access our floor as that was restricted and was not an all access area.
We were escorted to board the ship. After the usual welcomes and the mandatory hand wash from a sanitizer we boarded the ship from an elevator and onto the main area where we would be meeting our concierge.

A band welcomed all as we entered. Then the customary picure of the family which you will eventually buy at USD 20 or more from their gallery.

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We were led to a private lounge aboard the ship which was the concierge's lounge, where the concierge personally welcomed us and handed over his card to us and this letter

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We were escorted then to their restaurant where we could order our lunch before we were taken to our rooms. Lunch was good!! Lemon Shrimp Cocktail, Corn Chowder with Vegetables, Roast Chicken, Bruschetta, awesome grilled Steak, Carrot Cake, Cheesecake, Fruit Salad and finished with a shot of Italian Espresso.

What a lovely beginning.

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We were then escorted to our room. Phew they were spoiling us.
Our accommodation consisted of two bedrooms and one large sitting and dining area with a balcony. The couch turned into two full king sized beds to accommodate two full sized adults, least to say that the kids were more than comfortable in their beds.

The Accommodation

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The view from the bath tub window.

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Just outside common for our floor only is this naturally lit garden area with a retractable transparent roof called the Heaven.

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This area comprises of a few sit outs, deck chairs a temperature controlled swimming pool, a large Jacuzzi, two steam rooms and a fitness area with a few fitness machines thrown in. On one side is a small cafe where one can order breakfast/snacks or meals without having to go into any of the other areas. I prefer to go where the people are as im not a recluse or whining seclusion. My parents found eating here more relaxing as it was just outside our room and there was no effort involved to get to the dining area. Rooms service was also available but even in hotels i resist from eating meals in my room as i do not like the smell of food hovering around where i sleep. Its an issue with me so i try to avoid this. Also, i like being amongst people so i usually ate at the common dining area. Meeting different people, interacting with them, studying various kinds of culture. I guess my parents wanted a relaxed holiday and for me no holiday is relaxed....What can i say, thats me.
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Old 31st May 2013, 17:03   #12
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Awesome travelogue gogi paaji,waiting for more pics,its surely treat to eyes
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Old 31st May 2013, 17:40   #13
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@ Gogi: This travelogue couldnt have come at a better time!!
You got way too few days to see either of the places well. We sepnt 4.5 days in Venice and Florence and 5.5 days in Rome (along with 4.5 days in Sorrento/Amalfi Coast) and we feel like we should have extended our stay by 2 days in each of these locations.

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PS: i would love to know how he will do Murano by coach!!

Alaska is a great venue for a cruise. Dad and Mom had been the year before and my friends have just gone on the Alaskan cruise. ...And Yes no cruise without a Balcony.
The day we had planned to got o Murano-Burano was the day of a boat race in Venice. We could not change the plan as we had co-ordinated with other familes who had already seen Venice.

The Grand Canal was closed and the Vaporetti dropped us of at Pl. Roma. Someone told us we could walk to Murano from Pl. Roma so we headed to a cafe for lunch. Then we asked the Cafe owner how we cold "WALK" to Murano.

Us: Sir, we would like to Murano
Cafe owner *looking at us incredulously*: Walk??
Us: yes, Sir, we were told we can walk to Murano
Cafe Owner *Shaking is head and waving his arms*: No! No Walky! You Swimmo!
Us: Sir we have a map
Cafe Owner *looking at the map we have presented*: This is wrong map, turn turn turn!

Then in his best English he gathered himself and tried to explain to us on the reverse of the map (that now showed us where Murano was) how we had to walk 2 hours to Fondamenta Nove and take a boat from there.

Lesson learnt - there is no ROAD route to Murano.

Alaskan Cruise: you must take a balcony. You must go via the Inside Passage and spend at least a day going through Glacier Bay. Good cities to visit - Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway, a room with a balcony, especially a suite like the "Owner's suite" will ensure you can skip the lines if your cruise has not docked and has to "tender" passengers to and fro. Talk to the cruise line. Find out how many ports they will tender at. And oh, don't forget a helicopter ride to a glacier.

Last edited by Technocrat : 31st May 2013 at 23:10.
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Old 1st June 2013, 11:38   #14
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I would recommend The Royal Caribbean company for Alaska tours for their expertise
Thanks Gogi. Royal Caribbean booked.

With your expertise, you should start a Pritam cruise . Great hospitality & food guaranteed!

Quote:
And Yes no cruise without a Balcony.
We narrowly missed the balcony (got filled up), but got a junior suite at not-so-much a price hike.
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Old 1st June 2013, 13:57   #15
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PS..is it just me or is can all of you not see any photos on the previous post...just attachment links???


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Thanks Gogi. Royal Caribbean booked.

With your expertise, you should start a Pritam cruise . Great hospitality & food guaranteed!




Quote:
We narrowly missed the balcony (got filled up), but got a junior suite at not-so-much a price hike.
Awesome!!

No Sweat for missing the BAlcony rooms but you got a better room and i told you many a times the deals you get are so good, that the better room is a more sensible option and an increase of a fraction of the cost.

Will await the Alsakan Cruise thread from you

I am told that most ships now have majority of the rooms with a balcony, except of course those which are housed in the inner passages and in no way can have a balcony attached to them.

Last edited by V-16 : 1st June 2013 at 13:58.
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